Pit crew issues plagued Wallace during Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway, leading to a brief radio exchange with crew chief Bootie Barker.
Wallace had the fastest car in practice, but the car got out of shape during qualifying and he started in 30th position. He made his way to seventh at the end of the first leg.
In the second leg he had a loose wheel. When he was told to stop, he was hit from behind by another car. By the time Wallace got back into the pit lane and the problem was fixed, he was one lap down.
Shortly after returning to the track, Wallace let his frustration out on the radio.
“Everything is fine now,” Barker said on the radio. “Obviously we are one lap behind. Sorry about that.”
Wallace replied, “Leave the… alone, dude. Don’t talk to me the whole… whole race.”
Barker said, “I am, and we’re not out. Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll be fine. I know you’re mad and you deserve it.”
That exchange came a day after Wallace told reporters he needed to do better the right mentality when taking on challenges†
“It gets frustrating sometimes,” Wallace said. “You get run over or you have a bad stop or I’m going to hit the fence somewhere. It puts you back.”
Busch understands Wallace’s frustrations as he had similar outbursts on the radio earlier in his career. One of the reasons Busch was brought to 23XI Racing was to serve Wallace as a veteran.
“I’m like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve been here,” Busch told reporters on Tuesday of his message to Wallace. ‘I am with you. I’m a racer. I am passionate. We just need to get to that next level of professionalism.”
“I made those mistakes, and he makes those mistakes and yet it’s still just a matter of just trusting all the elements and all the people in the team.
“So yes, I’m involved. But Bootie Barker is the leader of that 23 car. You know, we have Denny (Hamlin) as our team owner and (Michael Jordan).
“Everyone is spinning about what the real core problem is. And that’s the consistency on the pit stops with the 23 car. So Bubba is right, but we just need to fix that problem. And we have to do it the right way.”
The pit crew issues were common to most Toyota teams. Joe Gibbs Racing provides the pit crews for 23XI Racing. President of Toyota Racing Development David Wilson was critical of the pit crew’s performancetold NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan last week: “Across the board, except (Kyle Busch‘s) team, our execution in the pit lane has been everywhere. It was embarrassing at times.”
Busch said the help he gives Wallace is what he got earlier in his career.
“At the beginning of my career I just, I wish I had understood more about Mark Martin,” Busch said of his former teammate at what was Roush Racing. “He was always there to help. When I asked questions, and when he would give advice, it was sincere.
‘That’s what I found through my crew chiefs. It is always the crew chief who will give you the most sincere leadership response. And so that’s what Bubba has to do. It’s what we all have to do: just circle around the crew chiefs here, as well as JGR, and rely on their experience levels to build this entire Toyota group together. †
Wallace’s frustration is understandable. Nashville was no fluke in disappointing results.
Wallace had a strong car in Kansas last month, but two pit lane penalties prevented him from finishing better than 10th. After the race, he told NBC Sports, “Pit crew sucks.”
Barker had suspension for four races after a wheel came off Wallace’s car at Circuit of the Americas.
Wallace had to return to the pit road at Talladega due to a loose wheel.
But there have been other problems as well. Wallace finished last in Sonoma when his engine failed after nine laps. He was caught in a few incidents at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Wallace was forced out of the Coca-Cola 600 because his team misunderstood the requirements of the damaged vehicle policy after sustaining minor damage in an incident.
†It’s just such bad luck for that 23 car,” Busch said after his second finish Sunday in Nashville or Wallace. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
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Kurt Busch helps Bubba Wallace handle frustrations ‘the right way’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com